Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1186 Polovtsi khan 
Subjectkhan elite heavy cavalry commander
Culture: Polovtsi / Kipchaq / Cuman
Setting: border warfare, Russia / eastern Europe mid 11th - early 13thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Nicolle 1999 p274
"North and east of the Peĉenegs lay the Kimaks, who remained shamanist, never adopting Islam, and are notable mostly for their use of skis, as well as their role in the medieval fur trade.  From the military point of view their interest lies in the fact that the powerful, warlike and more numerous Kipĉaks sprang from them; in turn dominating and re-absorbing the Kimaks during the 11th century.
    "The Kipĉaks themselves were the most important tribe of the western steppes during the period under consideration, perhaps having even greater influence on the arms, armour and military styles of their neighbours than did the subsequent Mongols.  Known to the Russians as Polovtsy and to the Byzantines, somewhat inaccurately, as Cumans (Kumāns), they dominated a huge area from Eastern Europe to the Aral Sea.  They drove out the Ghuzz (Oghuz) in the mid-11th century and became sometime-allies of the Christian Georgians in the early 12th century.  While some were Christian or Muslim, with a small number adopting Judaism, the majority of Kipĉaks appear to have remained shamanist.  By the late 12th century they used fire-weapons, mangonels, and apparently large crossbows mounted on carts, though their warriors still reliaed primarily on archery and short javelins or spears.  Defeated by the Mongols in 1237, some of their number fled to Hungary -- where they were known as Comans, Kuns or Kunoks -- while the rest eventually absorbed their numerically inferior Mongol conquerors.  In fact the Kipĉaks became the dominant element within the late 13th and 14th-century supposedly Mongol Khānate of the Golden Horde."

* Çağatay/Kuban eds. 2006 p210
"The Polovcians first appeared in Rus' in 1055, when their ruler Bolus (Turkic 'help[er]') concluded a treaty with Kievan Prince Vsevolod Jaroslavic.  Another Polovcian ruler, Sokal (Turkic 'beard'), led the first campaign against the same prince of Kiev and returned to the steppe after overcoming him in 1061."

* Halperin 1985 p14-15
"The most formidable confederation of Turkic nomads the Kievans confronted was the Polovtsy (in Turkic, Kipchaks; in Latin and Greek Cumans or Kumans), who preempted the Pontic and Caspian steppe in the eleventh century and held it until the Mongol onslaught.  [...]
    "Warfare between the Polovtsy and Kievan Rus' was common, but often what the records present as Polovtsian raiding was in fact Russian civil war. [...] In the course of this internecine strife, rival princes turned for allies to all of Russia's neighbors, including ... Polovtsy."

* Gorelik 1995 p29
"In the 11th-12th centuries a new rival to Russia emerged from the steppes, namely the Cumans.  This great people failed to form a kingdom yet created several chiefdoms and attacked Russia.  After the first successes of the Cuman troops the punitive campaigns of the Russian princes followed.  Gradually an unstable equilibrium was established.  The Cuman khans, in-laws of the Russian princes, became involved in intestine wars in Russia.  This fact even led to the christening of many an eminent khan."

* Çağatay/Kuban eds. 2006 p212
"Relations were friendly between the 'non-wild Polovcians' and the Rus' dynasties.  Polovcian military help was also welcomed by the left-bank dynasties of Rurikids.  It balanced the standing army (the 'Black Hats') of the Kievan prince who had settled there.  Therefore, the latter were the first to be attacked by the Polovcians.  The Polovcians were also cruelest toward them until the end of the twelfth century, when they themselves began to intermarry with the Black Hats.
    "The Polovcians and the Rus' princes might have had their constant private wars and encounters, but in general they regarded themselves as related.  The Polovcians never aimed to occupy even a part of the frontier Rus' principalities, such as the Perejaslav land.  If they penetrated into the interior of Rus', they did so because they were allied with one branch of the Rurikids against another.  When the Mongols, arriving in 1222, tried to separate them (as they did with the Polovcians and the Alans), they failed.  The ties were strong enough to prefer combat with the mercenaries and death.  Marriages between the Rus' and Polovcian dynasties were rather common in the twelfth century.  Several Rus' princes were sons of Polovcian princesses, and vice versa."  ...

* Halperin 1985, p19
"The same cross-cultural understanding is apparent in the Kievan Slovo o polku Igoreve, though some scholars consider it a later forgery.  Igor' Sviatoslavovich, prince of Novgorod-Seversk, launches a campaign in 1186 against the Polovtsian princes Gza and Konchak, hoping to dip his helmet in the Don River symbolically after his victory.  Igor' is captured but treated with great honor.  He is allowed to send for a priest to tend to his spiritual needs; he is given freedom of the camp; his son is betrothed to Konchak's daughter.  The Polovtsian chieftains even take him hunting, a great honor among Inner Asian pastorial societies."

* Nicolle/McBride 1990 p52
"Kipchaq families were headed by begs, these families themselves forming hordes under the rule of sultans.  Several hordes formed a tribe ruled by a khan.  All able-bodied men were still expected to serve in the army although the Kipchaqs were also noted for their warrior women. ...
    "Although the warlike Kipchaqs were often in conflict with their neighbours, they also formed alliances with Byzantines, Georgians and others.  Kipchaqs warriors served in various Russian princely armies and Christianity, as well as Islam, were spreading fast by the early 13th century."

* Nicolle/McBride 1999 p21-22
"After the Kipchaks took control of the western steppes in the late 11th century they ... became a source of allies and mercenaries, though not yet of Chernye Klobucki.  Shortly before 1230 AD most of those living in what are now Moldova and Moldavia converted to Catholic Christianity, and it seemed as if the Kipchaks would be absorbed into the mainstream of European civilization.  But a new threat was already on the horizon -- the Mongols, who would sweep the Kipchak elite into oblivion while absorbing the rest."


* Nicolle/Shpakovsky 2001 p47
"The Polovtsians wore a typically eastern or Central Asian form of costume.  When equipped for battle they wore short-sleeved mail hauberks, and lamellar cuirasses to protect their chests and backs.  In addition some of their elite warriors wore a style of anthropomorphic iron or bronze face-mask attached to their helmets.  Such masks could also be decorated with embossed or engraved moustaches which were themselves traditionally regarded as symbols of fortitude."

* Gorelik 1995 p29
"They used mail and, rarely, round shields and helmets.  The latter were richly decorated being exclusive to the nobility."

* Личины 2000 online
"Более четкие свидетельства использования закрытых боевых наголовий фиксируются с появлением и развитием постоянного воинского служилого контингента – конных княжеских и боярских дружин удельного периода – с 12 в., когда они входят в плотный боевой контакт с бесчисленными ордами степных соседей: торков и половцев. Так, по летописным источникам, под 1151 г. известен случай, когда воины киевского князя Изяслава Мстиславича, не узнав его, раненого, под закрытым шлемом и приняв за вражеского командира, стали наносить ему удары мечом, разрубив шлем "до лба".2
    "Примерно в это же время на Руси, а затем и у половцев появляются глубокие куполообразные шлемы (тип 4 по классификации А.Н.Кирпичникова ), наиболее ярким представителем которых является золоченый шлем Ярослава Всеволодовича (Оружейная Палата Московского Кремля), а также практически полностью сохранившийся экземпляр, найденный около с. Никольское (Государственный Эрмитаж), шлем из кургана Чингул, шлем из развалин церкви св. Ирины в Киеве, фрагментированый шлем из Изяславля и др. Эти шлемы, снабженные мощным наносником с околобровными, околокглазными выкружками или рельефной полумаской (уже значительно отличающейся по технике изготовления и форме от киевской полумаски или полумаской шлема эпохи викингов из Гьермундбю), имели плотную кольчужную круговую бармицу, защищающую шею, плечи, а также нижнюю часть лица."

* Heath 1978 p102
"They wore trousers, boots, long Arab-style tunic and kaftan.  Brocade, fur, wool and linen predominated, but goatskins were also worn and Robert de Clari, recording the events of the Fourth Crusade, speaks of the Cumans wearing a sheepskin garment which may have been intended to serve as light armour.  Other forms of armour including scale and lamellar were also worn depending on wealth and social status. ..."

* Nicolle/McBride 1990 p63
"The Kipchaqs were one of the last of the western steppe nomads to leave a great deal of weaponry in their graves and to make funerary statues.  Their most characteristic piece of equipment was a tall pointed helmet with an anthropomorphic iron or bronze visor.  Their cavalry elite also wore short-sleeved mail hauberks, a small amount of lamellar armour and fought with bows and curved sabres."


* Gorelik 1995 p29
"Cuman warriors were invariably mounted archers.  The nobles were also equipped with sabres and spears."  

* Nicolle/McBride 1990 p52
"According to the Byzantine historian Nicetas the early nomadic Kipchaqs fought with a quiver on their hip, a recurve bow, javelins and a curved sabre.  They used traditional Turkish tactics of repeated charges by horse-archers, feigned flight and skilful ambush."

* Heath 1978 p102-103
"Robert de Clari implies that the Cumans were armed only with their bows, but Byzantine and Russian sources also record sabres, lances, lassoes, maces and javelins in use, the Cumans being particularly noted for their accuracy with the latter.  Most shields were small circular ones, but some Cumans carried a small version of the kite shield."